Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, says the Government is seeking to make special funds available for agricultural entities that manufacture value-added products.
“We must support agriculture that is seeking to add value, not just to take in from the soil and sell it. We want to support those businesses in agriculture that are seeking to process and add greater value,” he said.
The Prime Minister was addressing the closing ceremony for the 65th Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show in Clarendon on Monday (August 7).
Mr. Holness noted that a decision was made to pump funds into the agricultural sector, as this strategy is considered one of the easiest and quickest ways to achieve growth in Jamaica.
Outlining other conditions to qualify for these funds, Mr. Holness said agricultural businesses generating foreign exchange from exports would also be considered.
“If I am going to move resources from one area to the next, then it is only fair that (the agricultural sector uses) the resources in ways that are going to make it better for the country – save us foreign exchange and earn us foreign exchange,” he stressed.
Those businesses engaged in import substitution, especially for crops such as Irish potatoes, red peas and onions, will also be favoured.
The Prime Minister urged businesses that will benefit to use the funds to get the maximum value from their products, given that the Government is operating under tight fiscal constraints and will be shifting resources from another area to agriculture.
“When we give favour to one area, then another area will be deprived. So, if we move resources (into agriculture) we must have an undertaking that the farmers are going to use those resources to the fullest and give us a return equal to or greater than what we could get elsewhere,” he said.
Mr. Holness further informed that discussions have been taking place with the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) to provide more funds for the agricultural sector, noting that he will be giving a directive to the entity’s Managing Director, Milverton Reynolds, to identify resources.
He also encouraged agricultural enterprises that qualify for loans to seek to access them from the various financial entities that support the agricultural sector.
“You should go to the EXIM bank, and to all the other resource windows that are there and access those funds,” he said.
In the meantime, Mr. Holness urged all Jamaicans to “keep supporting our farmers, buy local, consume local and, as much as possible, support brand Jamaica”.